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June 26, 2004

Sneakin' Sally Through the Alley

I was watching a special on late night MSNBC about the man in Utah who was being tried for polygamy, Tom Green. 5 Wives, 25+ children.


Anyway, ole' Tom here's getting read the riot act by just about everyone, but feels he's expressing his religion with consenting women. Testimony of Green and the wives reveals no real misconduct and, indeed, consent. Adding to the scandal is the fact his original wife, Linda, was 13 when they married. I'll concede that this is astonishing by today's standards, but we all know what went on for us poor girls in the days of yore, so it's not unbelievable. Green going on television (Dateline) to defend his beliefs prompts state law enforcement to investigate him on charges of bigamy. Green and his wives cite ancient Mormon tradition as the reason for their lifestyle, and claim they've been pressured from the state to keep quiet about it.

Green: "It's [the prosecution] because we're an embarrassment to the state of Utah because we have the courage, or the stupidity, to talk to you people [the media] about our beliefs."

Green claims that he is, in fact, a single man, having divorced each wife before marrying the next (even though the entire ensemble essentially lives with each other and they interact daily) to abide by Utah state law. But the state is trying to prove that Green and his first wife qualify for what Utah recognizes as a "common law" marriage. So, they're trying (or maybe have) put him in jail for bigamy.

These people live in UTAH.
It appears that all 5 wives are into the commune idea, and all 25 children appear happy and healthy. Yes, it does does seem a little sick and all the people in question appear to be, well ... weird when interviewed, this is Utah.
Life in Utah is weird. For lots of reasons. We know this.

Again, I just think it's important that we reflect of the level of weirdness of life in Utah. Especially Mormon Life. In. Utah.
It's gotta be weirder than we could ever dream! Every first-hand Mormon experience I've had in my life suggests this to me. Anyway.

In reality, though:
At some point in their tenure as part of the harem, 4 of the 5 women have collected unemployment as single mothers. None have worked outside the home, excepting under Green's supervision in his magazine business. But all seem resolute and content with their lives and duties as ... mothers. All have testified in his defense, and continue to live together while he awaits trial. All of the children are in good health, attending Utah public schools, and investigators found no indication of child abuse.

But, if they put him in jail for marrying and living with all these women, what HAPPENS TO THE WOMEN?! They all have like 5 kids, and are still breeding?!

In 2001, when this first aired, the women were asked by reporters how they would survive if their husband went to jail.
The women say "we'll stick together and do the best we can to raise our families."

This same question was posed to the prosecutor in the case against Green:

MSNBC reporter: "So if Tom Green goes to jail, what happens to these women and their 25 children?"

Prosecutor: "The exact same thing that happens to the wives and children of murderers and rapists and burglars."

Oh, good...

UPDATE: Green was sentenced to 5 yrs. in prison, his 30th(!) child was born while he was being tried (more on the way when this aired), and the women and their kids were split up and living with relatives so that they could eat.

Green was separately tried, and I think convicted, for Rape of a Child - for conceiving a child with his first wife, Linda, when she was 14 years old. Both Green and his wife were appealing the decision.

Ultimately, to me, it was pretty sad on all fronts.

Last I checked, in 2001, we had bigger problems than that. At least I thought.

Posted by kati at June 26, 2004 03:36 PM


I feel obliged to chime in here, what with half my relations being Mormon and having done my own stint in the church and having spent some solid time in Utah and all.

Life in Utah is a little weird in this sense: everyone goes to church on Sunday, it's harder to buy alcohol, there aren't many immigrants, people are very wholesome and encouraging about dating respectable members of the opposite sex, with open considerations of marriage at a relatively young age (i.e. ours or earlier). Rebelling constitutes wearing name-brand t-shirts and riding a skateboard. R-rated movies aren't very popular. There isn't a whole lot of "culture," whether it be rock 'n roll, opera, or art. Women really like being mothers and teachers and nurses. Everyone seems genuinely content most of the time. Genealogy, quilting, and gardening are big pasttimes, along with scrap-booking. People think it's a formidable achievement to attend BYU, though not as formidable as spending two years on a mission. Polygamy is not smiled upon, since it's their "most embarassing moment" and is in the not-too-distant past (what's 150 years, realy?). There is relatively little poverty since the church has its own welfare system. In general, it's a perfect example of a community voluntarily trading certain freedoms for a more wholesome lifestyle, and in general, this works pretty well, though when you cross the line, you're out on your own.

People refuse to believe that someone in their community could have truly done something horrible (like committed rape), or could have any sort of mental illness (like depression or bipolar disorder or an eating disorder). Women who want to have careers to the exclusion of their home life (i.e. children) don't have much in common with the other women of the community and get left out. Really smart, thoughtful, and educated people have a tough time with the lack of culture and the lack of philosophical struggle with church doctrine. No one will shun those who don't fit in, and they will be as supportive as they can without acknowledging the issue. That's what's weird about Utah. Everything is normal. Always. If you're not, you will probably leave.

Posted by: Christine at June 26, 2004 06:49 PM

I'm fairly familiar with Green and his small village. I watch a lot of dateline and 60 minutes, and the dude is on several times a year. And the thing is, despite my own feminist inclinations, I'm not overly concerned with sexist implications of this particular polygamous setup. My concern rests in the fact that his 30+ children are being fed and clothed with our tax dollars. If you can't support 30+ children, let some of your 5 freakin wives get jobs! Shit, run a daycare out of your compound. But don't continue to breed and run up the bills for the rest of us.

Posted by: Jolie at June 27, 2004 10:40 PM

13 is way too young to be married, even if you have your parent's "consent". I think it's right that Mr. Green is being tried for the statutory rape of his "wife" since even parents should not be able to give their 13 year-old daughters "permission" to marry that young. I think this is essentially parental neglect and the state has a definite interest in stepping in to make it clear that such practices are not socially acceptable or in the best interest of 13 year-old girls. As for polygamy, I think it is generally looked down upon by the majority of Mormons so situations like this are fairly rare and should be prosecuted. I agree that having 30 children is socially irresponsible, but the state should think about what will happen to the wives and children if they put this guy away. Perhaps the answer isn't jail time but some sort of huge fine or community service... or just public shaming, which they seem to have already accomplished.

Posted by: Kristina at June 28, 2004 08:40 AM